Texas’ wealthiest Republicans are still giving, but not to Donald Trump

Wealthy Republicans in Texas aren’t giving to Donald Trump the way they did for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Wealthy Republicans in Texas aren’t giving to Donald Trump the way they did for Mitt Romney in 2012. AP

Texas is a big kahuna in the Republican fundraising world, where wealthy oilmen and investors can vault a conservative politician to national prominence with one well-attended party in the suburbs of Dallas or Houston.

But big-money Texas Republicans are choosing to sit out the presidential election in its final weeks and contribute to Republicans in Congress instead.

Donald Trump has raised just under $10 million from Texans during the 2016 cycle so far, significantly less than Mitt Romney’s $36 million haul in 2012. Trump still trails Republican also-ran Ted Cruz in the Texas money race despite Cruz abandoning his presidential bid back in May.

Houston and Dallas are two of Trump’s three biggest donor metro areas across the country, with $2.2 million and $1.7 million raised, but Romney pulled in nearly $12 million from Houston alone four years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research center that tracks money in politics.

Romney’s top ZIP code by money raised in 2012 was Houston’s 77024, where he pulled in nearly $1.7 million. Trump has raised just $158,000 from the same ZIP code.

Big-money Republicans in Texas are a provincial bunch, as many chose to throw large amounts of cash to Republicans with local ties, such as Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush during the 2016 cycle.

Trump, with his New York roots and lewd comments about women, isn’t raking in Texas cash even though Hillary Clinton is largely disliked by the state’s conservative elites. Even Trump’s state finance chair blasted the Republican nominee after the “Access Hollywood” video was released this fall.

“I am deeply disappointed and offended by the comments made by Mr. Trump on the video released on Friday,” Trump Texas finance chair Gene Powell said in October. “However, I made a commitment to the campaign and I have one obligation left to the campaign and that is a fundraising event tomorrow in San Antonio, and I will fulfill that obligation as promised.”

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, a Trump donor who hosted a fundraiser for the nominee this summer, posted on Facebook after the video was released, “Sorry Donald. I’m done with you. Completely.”

Dallas-based real estate developer Ross Perot Jr. has donated over $750,000 to Republicans this cycle, none of it to Trump.

Among longtime big-money donors in Texas, only Mercedes Bass, a philanthropist who spends most of her time in New York, and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair have directly donated to Trump’s campaign.

Bass’ biggest publicly disclosed donation was $66,800 to the Republican National Committee. The committee supports Trump’s campaign but also gives money to down-ballot Republicans.

McNair gave $2 million to the Senate Leadership Fund and $1 million to the Congressional Leadership fund along with $3.5 million to the super PACs for seven failed Republican presidential candidates.

Neither has given millions to pro-Trump super PACs, the arena where big-money donors can spend money at will. Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate with candidates, but donors are allowed to contribute unlimited sums, which can fund expensive ad buys or get-out-the-vote efforts.

One pro-Trump super PAC, Future 45, has emerged in recent weeks to attack Clinton during the final stages of the campaign. Texans are not among the biggest donors to Future 45, founded by Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

Another pro-Trump super PAC, Great America PAC, received $500,000 from RHS Investments, based in Dripping Springs, Texas, and $83,000 from Rapid Response Television LLC in Stafford, Texas.

Three Texans, John Schwarz from Houston, Thomas Lamphere of Plano and Norman Chambers of Houston, gave $25,000 total to Great America, a far cry from 2012, when Texas donors gave or bundled millions to pro-Romney super PACs.

It is possible that wealthy Texans are giving money to “dark money” groups, political nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors.

Trump also trails Romney with small donations nationwide. In 2012 Romney took in $80 million in contributions under $200, while Trump had $67.5 million in small contributions as of Oct. 19. It can’t be determined how many small donors Trump has in Texas since that donor information is not disclosed to the FEC.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty